A Nicer-Looking Toad
This was the real world and traps wouldn’t just fall from the sky for no reason. Even if they did, those upstairs probably threw them down on purpose.
If Ning Jing had not lied about Xia Lei being her boyfriend, would he still be given this opportunity by Ning Yuan-Shan? Even willing to let him try his hand at it without asking about his qualifications?
Xia Lei would not take Ning Jing’s words seriously, of course. He was sure that Ning Jing said he was her boyfriend to try and pay him back.
‘This is a rare opportunity – Big Sister Ning also told her uncle that sort of lie so I have to take on this job. Once I finish this, my reputation will surely grow and I won’t have to worry about not making money ever again’ Xia Lei thought quietly to himself, and a sort of energy seemed to flow in his body.
“Little Lei,” When others were around, Ning Yuan-Shan called him Master Xia but now that it was just them, he called him ‘Little Lei’ and smiled warmly, “So, how old are you this year?”
Xia Lei was embarrassed and started feeling nervous, “I…”
Ning Jing gave Xia Lei a small push on his back, then quickly flashed him hand gestures.
The message was simple – five fingers of her left hand and two fingers of her right. Xia Lei followed her lead and said, “Uncle Ning, I am 25 this year.”
“Hoho, so you two are the same age.” Ning Yuan-Shan did not seem entirely satisfied by this bit of information and asked another question, “Little Lei, who are the members of your family?”
Xia Lei had no other choice, “My mother passed away when I was still a child and my father… There is just my sister and myself in the family now. She has been accepted into Jing-Du University and will begin her studies in Jing-Du in a little over two weeks.”
“I see.” Ning Yuan-Shan’s warm smile became more pronounced. This boy has a car, a home and both his parents were gone – this was ideal for a spouse. To a man as wealthy as Ning Yuan-Shan, the car and flat were not even worth looking at but he was very satisfied with the fact that his parents were not around.
Ning Jing seemed to be even more embarrassed than Xia Lei. She did not leave Ning Yuan-Shan further room to ask questions and quickly interjected, “Uncle, this is Lei’s first time meeting you. Don’t ask so many questions – it’s embarrassing.”
“Hoho, speaking on his behalf so soon? Okay, okay… I won’t speak any more. You young people are getting out of hand. This is a big thing and here you are trying to hide this and that, even forbidding me from telling your father…”
“Shush!” Ning Jing covered her ears.
Ning Yuan-Shan held his tongue. He looked over at Xia Lei and gave him a ‘what can I do’ face. However, he was quite pleased by Xia Lei’s image and temperament. Xia Lei was bright and handsome, confident yet humble, respectful towards his elders and most importantly, his parents were not around. This gave him a high score in his book.
They arrived at the workshop with much cheer and chatter. Chi Jing-Qiu walked out of the workshop and spoke respectfully, “Chairman Ning, they’re ready.”
“Mm.” Ning Yuan-Shan nodded, then gestured at Xia Lei, “Let us proceed, Master Xia.”
“Aye-Aye, Chairman Ning,” replied Xia Lei. He found it funny how they were Little Lei and Uncle Ning when in private, and Master Xia and Chairman Ning in public.
When he brushed past Chi Jing-Qiu, she whispered, “Lei, let’s talk later.”
Xia Lei paused, not sure how he should respond.
Ning Jing drew close and held Xia Lei’s hand intimately, “Lei, do you two know each other?”
So he was ‘Lei’ again. Xia Lei didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. He started to worry that he would become someone’s daddy or something at the rate this farce was going.
“We… know each other, but not very well,” said Chi Jing-Qiu carefully.
“I see. Lei, let’s go in. I’d love to see you show off your workmanship,” urged Ning Jing.
“Yes, let’s enter.” Xia Lei did not speak to Chi Jing-Qiu and walked into the workshop with Ning Jing on his arm. He didn’t know what Chi Jing-Qiu wanted to talk to him about and he had nothing to say to her either. Ning Jing, on the other hand, was making him nervous. Her arm was soft and smooth and there was an even softer place pressing on him but it would be awkward if he asked her to let go. This was giving him a headache yet making him comfortable at the same time; it was complicated and strange.
Chi Jing-Qiu hesitated and watched Xia Lei and Ning Jing stick closely to each other from the back before she followed.
In the workshop and in the company of many, Ning Jing let go of Xia Lei’s arm. “Good luck.”
Xia Lei nodded and walked towards Ning Yuan-Shan. Next to Ning Yuan-Shan were engineers in work clothes and and a large, imported high precision CNC machine. It seemed the machine would be what he had to work with to show his workmanship.
Xia Lei stepped up to the machine and saw German words. It had been imported from Germany and was worth tens of millions.
Importing equipment from Europe and America was, in fact, still considered all right. The import of precision machining parts was the real rip-off. One precision bearing cost tens of thousands and the price was non-negotiable. This was the result of being behind in manufacturing – you knew you were being taken advantage of but can only smile as you hand over your money. As soon as any international disputes or conflicts of interest occur, Europe and America would limit trade in this industry and high precision manufacturing became impossible. If they continued to lag behind Europe and America in terms of precision machining, this problem with no solution would persist.
“Young man, have you used this sort of lathe before?” an engineer questioned Xia Lei doubtfully.
It was not just him – the engineers of East Wind Heavy Industries who were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the ‘mysterious Master’ were disappointed when Xia Lei turned up. In their eyes, a young man such as Xia Lei couldn’t possibly have great workmanship. They were still standing around only because Ning Yuan-Shan was present.
Xia Lei was calm and spoke mildly, “This is a DMG precision lathe imported from Germany with an accuracy of 0.0001mm.” After a pause, he added, “Though I have never used such a high-end lathe, I think I wouldn’t have any problems. I can process parts with an accuracy of 0.0009mm with my Golden Pheasant.”
The engineer who spoke earlier voiced his thoughts again, “It’s not good to blow your own horn, young man. We know the limits of our locally-produced lathes. You can process parts with an accuracy of 0.0009mm with your Golden Pheasant? I don’t believe you. Nobody in this country has been able to reach that standard.”
Xia Lei was still polite and courteous even though he was under suspicion and doubt. “I did not lie. Wouldn’t we know if I just try?” he said.
“That’s right,” said Ning Yuan-Shan, “Let him try. You people just won’t change your way of thinking. Young people nowadays are quite capable. Won’t the future masters of the world be the young people of today?”
With Ning Yuan-Shan speaking on Xia Lei’s behalf, who would dare voice their doubt now?
The engineer who spoke against Xia Lei changed his tune. He pointed at the imported lathe and said, “We have an imported bearing but it lacks a shaft so you can process that. The lathe has the bearing data and the shaft accuracy and damping coefficient requirements. You can start after you take a look.”
Processing a shaft to connect to the bearing seemed like a simple task but this had the added difficulty of an imported bearing and damping coefficient requirements. This was like asking a chef to prepare tofu. If you only needed him to cube it and add it to the pot, any chef would do. However, if you wanted the chef to carve a picture of two dragons searching for a pearl on the tofu, then cook it, you would be hard pressed to find a chef skilled enough.
He knew it would be difficult but Xia Lei did not hesitate. He walked to side of the lathe and looked through the information and materials which the engineers had placed there.
The group of engineers talked among themselves at one side.
“Who’s this young punk? A nobody dares to come knocking here for work at his age?”
“No, one look and I can tell; I don’t believe he has any real ability.”
“I hear this punk was brought in by Chairman Ning’s niece. Chairman Ning’s son perished on the battlefield so he dotes on Ning Jing like his own flesh and blood. He got in through connections?”
“So that’s how it is. No wonder.”
Some spoke of their doubts while others passed negative remarks and none of the words were complimentary to Xia Lei.
Chi Jing-Qiu stood close to the group of engineers and eavesdropped. A faint mocking smile appeared on her lips, then she folded her arms and gave Xia Lei a measured look, thinking ‘Xia Lei must be lying. When did he go to the College of Engineering? Never. He’s just a high school graduate. He must have used his looks and his sweet-talking mouth to seduce Chairman Ning’s niece. But isn’t he overreaching? This isn’t his flirting-grounds – these engineers are the elite, the best in this country. Every one of them is a skilled Master. How can he pull the wool over their eyes? Ha! He’s going to make a fool of himself. Good thing I was smart back then and didn’t get fooled by him. He wanted to be with me? Paired with him? Humph. He’s just a nicer-looking toad.’
Xia Lei naturally became the focus of attention in the workshop. Every engineer had his own opinion of him and everyone had different ways of thinking. No matter who it was, and what they thought, it did not affect Xia Lei now.
After reading the bearing information and requirements for the shaft, Xia Lei started the lathe. He said he would do it and he did, with no hesitation and no fear – because his left eye was the greatest precision existence in the world!
The imported DMG precision lathe was indeed advanced; there was barely any loud sound when in use. This machine was actually a precise existence – every bearing, every screw, every part was most precise. Germany’s reputation for precision was not for show; it was very real. Under Xia Lei’s hands, the german precision lathe was like a tamed beast, following his every command meticulously. The turning tool spun in a blur and the alloy parts fixed on the machine quickly changed shape. Every step was smooth and skilled.
“Is this really the first time this punk is using a lathe like this?” An engineer in the group could not help asking.
“One look and I know that this guy has used this sort of lathe before, or he couldn’t be so skilled. We hired professional translators and slowly got the hang of using this. How can he just read a while and be able to use it?” said one.
“Yeah, this is a sly young punk. He said it was his first time using it on purpose so he could surprise us, didn’t he?” said another.
“Maybe he knows German,” said yet another.
“Even if he does know German, this machine uses technical jargon. Who would learn this sort of German? This specialised German has to be translated by professional translators. Regular fluent German-speakers wouldn’t understand it either,” said one.
“Huh. What a strange guy,” exclaimed another.
Amidst their chatter, Chi Jing-Qiu’s brows slowly wrinkled up.